Apocope

An Introduction to Apocope

Apocope (derives from Greek combination, ‘apo’ [away from], and ‘koptein’ [to cut] literally means “a cutting off”), is a kind of MetaplasmOpens in new window, which consists in the elisionOpens in new window of the final syllableOpens in new window or some of the final letters of a word, for instance,

  • ‘tho’, for “though”;
  • ‘th’, for “the”;
  • ‘t’other’, for “the other”;
  • ‘thro’, for “through”;
  • ‘oft’, for “often”;

The aim of omitting some of the final letters of a word is usually for the smooth flow of the verseOpens in new window.

While apocope is a rhetorical figure that flourishes in the poetryOpens in new window, it is also a musical figure which consists in shortening the final note in one voice of a fugueOpens in new window. Here, the apocope signifies a cutting off of the fugue for whatever reason. Instead of completing the fugue in all parts with all voices, one of its voices is broken off. — (Dietrich Bartel, Musica Poetica: Musical-Rhetorical Figures in German Baroque Music)

Notable Examples of Apocope
  • “Season your admiration for a while with an attent [for “attentive”] ear.”
  • — (William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act I, scene 2)

  • “True art is nature to advantage dressed What oft [for “often”] was thought, but ne'er so well expressed.”
  • —(Alexander Pope)
Important Hint! 

Apocope being a vital device deployed to keep the flow of metreOpens in new window or rhymeOpens in new window intact, can instrumentally be applied to the clippingOpens in new window in formal speech, and writing of certain words like ad(vert)(isement); goss(ip); photo(graph).

Further Readings:
Silver Rhetoricae | ApocopeOpens in new window
Dietrich Bartel | Musica Poetica: Musical-Rhetorical Figures in German Baroque Music: ApocopeOpens in new window
Wikipedia | ApocopeOpens in new window